THE VAULT OF HORROR: THE EC ARCHIVES VOL. 2 (GC Press, 2011; Hardcover)
Note: Actually released in 2012
Collects The Vault of Horror #18-23 (cover dates April-May, 1951- February-March, 1952)
Writers: Bill Gaines, Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig
Artists: Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Jack Kamen, Graham Ingels, and Howard Larsen
I have been on a huge Horror kick this month, what with Hallowe'en coming up and all. There is no better reading this time of year than EC or other '50s Pre-Code Horror. I say this all the time but it bears repeating: EC Comics are pretty much the best comics ever made. EC was the spark that set the imagination of John Carpenter, Stephen King, Wes Craven, and so many more on fire. That impact is apparent in Horror even today and cannot be stated enough times.
The late, great Bhob Stewart's six page commentary was fantastic. Modern day fandom owes a huge debt to people like Stewart. He ran an EC fanzine while they were still an ongoing concern and is among the first wave of fans to legitimize comic books as an artform with their insight. The changes in the way that fans interact has been incredible to watch, but we must never forget those who blazed the trail for fans today.
Some of these stories, such as #18's The Mask Of Horror, have been appropriated over and over so many times that it is almost impossible to pinpoint who stole what from where. Suffice it to say that this certainly predates the episode of The Twilight Zone from season 5, The Masks. The 1990s Tales From The Crypt HBO series adapted many of the stories found in this book, so fans of that series would get a kick out of this.
#19's Reunion! has all of the ingredients that made EC great. The flawless set up and the ironic twist ending, all with superb writing and beautiful artwork. While I love all of the artists in these books, it is a toss up between Jack Kamen and Graham Ingels for my favorite. This stuff holds up really well on the reread. Issues 22 and 23 were rereads since I read them in Vault Of Horror Annual Vol. 3. You can read what I thought of them when I first read them here.
I am not a fan of the recoloring found in these books. I didn't mind it at first but as time has gone on I have become a purist and, some might say, an insufferable snob when it comes to restoration, color choices, paper, and binding. I offer no apologies for this sort of thing, as much of it is subjective. Simply put, if you enjoy the recolored EC Archives, good for you.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I can't wait for the day when someone, anyone, produces EC Comics Archives in full color with the original color palette, including the original cover color palette.
Both of these GC Press EC Archives are slightly smaller than the Gemstone versions and have minor spine design alterations, if such things matter to you.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction. (2 pages)
Foreword by John Landis. (1 page)
Vault Lines by Bhob Stewart, Parts One through Six. (6 pages)
Linework and Color: The linework is superb, taken from photostats and original artwork. The color is the killer for me. While based on Marie Severin's original colors, there are too many liberties taken with it in terms of gradient shades and other Photoshop effects for my taste. Your mileage may vary.
Paper stock: Thick coated stock with a slight sheen.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding with seven stitches per signature.
Hardback cover notes: This is the best of both worlds- a dustjacket with the same image on the paper of the casewrap. Top it off with a super thick lamination and you have the cherry on the top of this sundae.